google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: January 2018

Do You Want to Shape Your Genealogy into Shareable Stories?

At some point you may find yourself asking the question, what do I do with all my research? You might recognize that no one else in the family is interested. They don’t want your books and binders filled with a lifetime of research. As genealogists, this makes us a little sad. But it doesn’t have to, the problem is not that they aren’t interested, the problem is in how the information is being presented to them.

We need to be realistic about our research.  Your family doesn't want your research notes. They want stories. They want your research shaped into to something that is a little easier for them to digest. A story, a collection of stories, a family history book, anything but the raw data saved in a binder. They want it linked together, they want to understand the meaning behind it. They want to connect with their ancestor.

So how do you shape your research into shareable stories?

Learns the skills

Now I get it. You’re not a writer. You’re a researcher. So how do you do you write these shareable stories? Well, just like you've learned genealogy and how to uncover the information of your ancestors you can learn to write. It’s not a natural gift reserved for a few. While it’s true some are born with the gift of prose, the rest of us must learn the craft. You can learn to take the facts and shape them into shareable stories. Don’t dismiss writing your ancestor’s stories because you lack this knowledge. Invest some time and learn how to write stories.

Create a Regular Writing Practice

When you begin to incorporate writing into your life on a regular basis, it will become a part of your routine just like your research. It should be another tool in your genealogy toolbox that you will be using on a regular basis to transform your research into consumable stories. If you wait until you finished 20 or 30 years of research before you begin writing, you’ll find yourself completely overwhelmed. Incorporate a regular writing practice, right from the beginning, and you won’t find yourself overwhelmed with shaping a lifetime of research into stories.

Focus on One Ancestor, One Story

Often we are overwhelmed about where to start, or we think that writing our family history means we have to write it all, every ancestor, from the earliest we can place our ancestors to present. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our family history is a collection of lives that intersect and collide. But we don’t have to have all the research before we begin to write. We only need to start with one ancestor and one story. Don’t overwhelm your readers or yourself. Star with one individual story, improve your writing skills with each story.  Give them a single story they can enjoy and connect with and leave them wanting more.

The Family History Writing Challenge

The place to start your family history writing journey is with The Family History Writing Challenge. Choose one ancestor, one story and join us beginning February 1st. We help you to learn the craft of writing family history stories, and throughout the 28 days, we will show you how to establish a regular practice of writing your ancestors stories.

The Family History Writing Challenge provides you with 28 daily emails we call the Daily Dose.  In our Daily Dose emails, you are presented with information on how to write exciting and entertaining stories in the form of narrative nonfiction. You are offered inspiration and the motivation to stay committed for the 28 days.

You’re not going to write all your ancestor’s stories in 28 days. Even if you only write one story about one ancestor, the act of committing to writing that one narrative over 28 days will be your catalyst and window into a new world. A world where you can see how writing your family history stories can be a new stage in your genealogy journey. It’s also the link, that missing piece required to connect your family with their ancestors. It can be the start of assembling your genealogy legacy.

It's Free

The Family History Writing Challenge is free. The only cost is an investment of your time and commitment. When you sign up for The Challenge, we will start by sending you some emails on how to get started. Free articles to read.  For those of you who require a more structured system for organizing yourself for writing, we offer tools such as The Challenge Prep course or our workbooks.

Daily Dose Emails 

On February 1st, we will begin to send you our Daily Dose emails. These emails are meant to offer you insights into writing narrative nonfiction, hopefully helping you to develop your writing as you write each day. We will also motivate you to stick with a daily schedule so that you can create good writing habits and continue to write after the Challenge is over, make writing a regular part of your genealogy life.

Private Facebook Group 

Also, if you want to interact with myself and other Challenge members during these 28 days, you can join us on our Private Facebook group. Members can ask questions, share some their writing and get some feedback if they desire.

Are you ready to shape your genealogy into shareable family history stories? If not now then when?
Join The Family History Writing Challenge, we'll help you get started today. 

Refocus Your Genealogy for 2018: 10 Steps with Templates

The New Year is here, and I love this time of year to take stock and refocus my genealogy research. 

How did you make out in advancing your family history goals in 2017?

Did you fall short?

Maybe, life got in the way, perhaps you became frustrated with too many brick walls, or you found yourself chasing your tail because you didn’t have a research plan. This year, let’s revive and refocus our genealogy research with a strategy that will help you stay focused on getting results.

It’s not enough to have research goals if you don’t have a plan. If you really want to meet with success in 2018, you need to not only identify your research goals but put together a plan for achieving those goals.

Instead of aimlessly researching via surfing the Internet hoping a missing piece of the equation will magically appear let’s create a plan that will get you results and fill in those missing gaps.

Step 1. Identify the gaps in your research. We can’t identify a plan if we don’t know the goal. We need to determine precisely what it is we are looking for in our research. The best way to do this is a combination of a pedigree chart, group sheets, and a timeline. Pedigree charts will help you identify missing lines and ancestors. Group sheets will help you to identify missing information about family members while timelines can help you get very specific about what is missing in the timeline of an ancestor’s life. Timelines are an incredibly useful tool for helping to see the big picture of an ancestor’s life and to help you identify those missing gaps. A timeline can help you to re-frame your information to help you to see your research from a different perspective.

Step 2. Create a Master Research List –  Create a list of ancestors you wish to focus on for 2018. I would keep the list to about 7-10 ancestors. Researching too many ancestors at one time only ends in frustration, not giving quality time to anyone. Download your Master Research list

Step 3. Set up Quarterly Goals – If your research list is long, it can become quite overwhelming. Most times we tend to jump around in our research and not stay focused on a line or ancestor. We don’t want to research all top 10 ancestors at once. Let’s break down your 2018 goals into quarterly goals, identifying about 3 ancestors that you plan to work on in the first quarter of 2018.

Step 4. Re-Organize – Re-organize your research files for the 2-3 ancestors you identified for the first quarter of 2018. Perhaps invest in a new software program and organize your family history files into that new software program. The process of organizing your records can help to clear the chaos and refocus your research. It is also is a great time to take another look. I created what I like to call The Gap Sheet. It identifies the missing pieces. Fill one out for each ancestor from each ancestor on your master list. 

Step 5. Take Another Look – It continues to amaze me how taking a second or third look at a document can suddenly reveal new information you never saw as relevant before. Don’t be naive in thinking that you have grasped everything possible from a record. Take another look at the documents for your 2-3 ancestors that you are focused on in your first quarter of 2018.

Step 6. Create an Original Records List – How many documents in your research are original? How much of your information is being derived from transcriptions or abstracts? You may not be getting the full story if you are relying on abstracts or transcriptions. Make a list of missing originals and make 2018 the year you seek them out. It might just help you open some new doors in your research. At the very least, the original will confirm your current findings. (stay tuned for a more in-depth post)

Step 7. Research Collateral Lines – Collateral lines means spending some time researching your ancestor’s siblings. Looking to the siblings of the ancestor in question may unveil family information in their records that are not available in your ancestor’s records. Perhaps revealing some new information. (stay tuned for a more in-depth post)

Step 8. Expand Your Knowledge – Brickwalls can sometimes be the result of a lack of knowledge about a specific research area. You may lack information about record sets available and where they are held or how to read them. You might not have an understanding of a culture or geography of an area that may affect the creation of individual records. Attend a conference, take a genealogy class at your local archives or hop online and attend a webinar that features a topic specific to that ancestor. Expand your knowledge of records, resources, and history of an ancestor’s place and time, and you’ll start to tear down that brick wall.

Step 9. DNA Testing. Reach out to descendants of an ancestor and see if they will take a DNA test. DNA testing is a great way to prove or disapprove family lines where no records may exist. Consider joining or starting a DNA Surname Study, to help take your research to the next level.

Step 10. Take a Field Trip - If you only research online from your armchair, you’re missing out. Perhaps it’s time to take a trip to an ancestral hometown; it’s the perfect way to revive your research. Sometimes, a simple field trip and a change of environment are all that’s needed to rejuvenate and refocus your research.

Repeat Steps 3-10.  Each quarter, choose three ancestors from your master list. Keep the 4th spot open for one ancestor from the previous quarter that may be proving fruitful, and you’re not prepared to move on from yet.

Follow this pattern for the year,  and by the end of 2018, you’ll have covered 7-10 ancestors with a clear and focused approach.